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Dry Socket Opinion: Clinging To The Last Few Pieces To My Childhood

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Once again, WWE RAW scored a new low for ratings. And, once again, I didn’t make it through RAW. It’s just not entertaining. WWE continues to rely on gimmick matches and their past. The show just isn’t drawing. It’s corny and not believable. It’s difficult to watch and it doesn’t hold the attention of the fans. The camera tricks aren’t working and the storylines are bland. Smackdown! has a six pack challenge and RAW has a fatal five-way. The storylines are recycled. The acting is brutal and the characters sound the same. Face it, you know it’s bad when the part-time champ doesn’t even care to show up. And, to top it off, WWE is promoting a PPV called “Great Balls of Fire”.

I could list ways WWE could improve but it wouldn’t really matter. Despite WWE claiming that they listen to all of their fans, we know it’s not true. WWE capitalized on indie favorites and began watering them down. Those wrestlers have been told to fit into the WWE mold. Have a catchy nickname (or 12), a catchphrase, a physical taunt, and a t-shirt. Everyone bats even and sounds the same.

WWE may say that RAW and Smackdown are rivals RAW is and always will be their “flagship” show. Smackdown may have better wrestling but RAW seems to be the show that gets the most promotion. It’s the “edgier” show (if you can consider WWE edgy). Let’s face it, WWE killed professional wrestling, for me. I went from craving more and never getting enough to barely making it through one show a week. Now, I can’t make it through one weekly show.

So I questioned what I should write about, for this week’s column. Last week, I talked about the 20th anniversary of the Attitude era (check it out if you haven’t). I’ve talked about the entrance themes and some of my favorite storylines. Heck, I’ve even discussed early Wrestlemania storylines. So what is a fresh topic that I haven’t covered? Toys.

When I first got into wrestling, I started watching WCW. I had seen wrestling, prior, but never really thought much of it. However, during the height of the Wolfpac/WCW/nWo rivalry, my 5th grade friends became obsessed. I started watching WCW Nitro and Sting quickly became my favorite. I got a multi-pack of wrestlers (Hollywood Hogan and Sting) from the WCW/nWo Smash n’ Slam series, for my birthday. Shortly after, I acquired the Nitro arena set and added DDP, Nash, Hall, and Lex Luger. I began playing with the toys and using the WCW Mayhem CD for entrance themes.

Every so often, I would put on “shows” for the neighborhood kids and use the caps, from my cap guns, for  pyro. As I headed into 6th grade, I started to get into the WWF. During one of my Nitro episodes, The Rock made a surprise appearance. Each week, a new WWF star would “invade” Nitro. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but for the neighborhood kids, it was awesome.

As Christmas came around the corner, The Rock interfered in the WCW title match (featuring Hogan and Goldberg) and announced that WWF RAW is WAR would put on a show the following week. It was during this time that I got the Wrestlemania X7 ring and Titan Tron.

I got a ton of WWF themes (thanks to the WWF Attitude N64 video game), crazy lights, a cage, and a number of accessories for the ring (including steps, ropes, rubber turnbuckles, ring skirts, and weapons). As the neighborhood kids poured in, you could tell (just like in real life) the production quality had improved from WCW to the WWF. The video screen was my TV and I played tron videos from the WWF No Mercy game. Pyro came from sparklers and firecrackers. Looking back on this, I now realize just how dangerous this was (especially from my job’s point of view). Still, it looked pretty awesome. Again, I know this is cheesy, but back then, it brought all the neighborhood kids over.

The main event saw The Rock face Triple H in a Hell in a Cell match (I used my beagle’s dog cage as the cell, since the ring could fit inside of it). The Undertaker, Kane, Vince McMahon, and Rikishi all interfered. At the climax, all of them WWF wrestlers were fighting when Sting came down from the rafters (I tied fishing line to our ceiling fan and had him lowered down). Members from the WCW roster began fighting the WWF guys and the WWF locker room emptied. The Undertaker threw Hogan out of my second story window, The Rock pinned Triple H, and Vince McMahon demanded that a “War Games” take place the following week.

While it never actually occurred (school went back into session and my math grade was slipping so I had to study), it seemed like a great idea at the time. The neighborhood kids showed up, chowed on popcorn, cheered, and one even brought his video camera. The creativity and customizable options, for the WWF toys, was second to none. I still have all the toys in three large containers in my basement. I can’t part with them. I stopped putting on weekly shows and just played with the toys at my leisure. The stages, rosters, and weapons were great. I think I played with them up until I finished 8th grade. By then, my interest in action figures had shifted to guitars and hanging out with friends. I still have the toys, though. They’re boxed up (much like Andy’s from “Toy Story”) and in the basement.

To see where my wrestling feelings once were and compare them to now, hurts. My addiction seems to be dying and I feel as though I’m truly losing one of the last parts of being a kid (though I’m almost 30). Watching the WWF was always an escape from reality. Whether it was an academic problem, a girl turning me down, or the realities of growing up, wrestling was always that constant. Long gone are the days where I could just grab a couple action figures and lose myself in my own storyline.

I’m hard on WWE. I criticize because I know they can do better.  What was once a dynasty and entertainment icon has fallen to a pathetic joke that seems to be ashamed of what made them famous in the first place. They’ve shunned their longtime fans and are attempting to win their critics over (yet failing). WWE begs for attention and is desperate for professional sports and Hollywood to embrace them. I’ve still yet to see another sporting organization send WWE one of their championship trophies.

Today’s WWE makes fans embarrassed to watch. I used to say the show was staged but now it just feels fake. Much like Booker T said, during Bayley’s “This Is Your Life”, this is hard to watch. Time and time again, we’ve given them chances to improve. They acquire great talent yet fail to utilize them. While ring work is important, mic work and storylines are what makes professional wrestling. If the fans can’t get behind a character and the storyline, there doesn’t seem to be much to invest in.

Many of the old storylines and characters were insanely hard to believe. They defied logic and (looking back) were just plain stupid. But, during the time, the fans bought into it. We hung on to each promo and demanded more. Why? Because the company believed in it and sold it. They were forced to do better than their competition. They were forced to keep the fans from changing the channel. Each show ended with a cliffhanger. The fans couldn’t wait for more but were forced to because there weren’t shows every day of the week. Rivalries were fresh and storylines followed a solid trend. Instead of trying to fit in, the WWF focused on their product (whether it was in tune with pop culture or not). They didn’t need to brag about beating ESPN or Love & Hip Hop. They didn’t need to promote a former wrestler appearing on SNL. They focused on their full-time roster and built their wrestlers to be unique.

Yes, I’m salty about the present. Maybe it’s because the company sucks. Maybe it’s because I’m realizing that I’ll never get my childhood back. Whatever the case, I want to know your childhood memories of wrestling. Did you play with the toys and binge on the Home Videos? Did you play the videogames and lose yourself in the TV storylines? PLEASE sound off below and let me know that I’m not alone.

*Sidenote* Ryback still sucks and his interviews are always hilarious. The guy is a bitter trainwreck and his biggest (and only) fan.

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